Weekly News Recap (13-19 November 2023)

© Photo by Catholic Church England and Wales via Flickr




ICC: Armenia Formally Joins the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

On 14 November 2023, Armenia deposited its instrument of ratification for the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). This ratification will come into effect for Armenia on 1 February 2024, making it the 124th State Party and the 19th Eastern European country to join the Rome Statute. Furthermore, the ICC Registrar, Osvaldo Zavala Giler, received a communication from Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ararat Mirzoyan, on 15 November 2023, informing the ICC that Armenia’s Parliament had adopted the law to ratify the Rome Statute on 3 October 2023, which was later signed by the President on 13 October 2023, and enforced on 17 October 2023. In this communication, Minister Mirzoyan stated that Armenia, through the law adopted by its Parliament, retroactively accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction from 10 May 2021. This declaration, made under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, emphasizes Armenia’s commitment to fully and promptly cooperate with the ICC.


Australia: Detained Immigrants Released Following Australian High Court Ruling Against Indefinite Immigration Detention

On 14 November 2023, it was reported that the High Court of Australia’s recent ruling against indefinite immigration detention has resulted in the immediate release of numerous detainees, including refugees and others held for various reasons. The court deemed the practice unlawful, marking a significant departure from previous decisions upholding indefinite detention. Approximately 80 individuals were released following this ruling, with at least 92 more eligible for release, and potentially affecting around 300 additional cases. This decision is viewed as life-changing, providing hope for those who have spent years detained without a clear release date. The High Court’s decision stemmed from a case involving a stateless Rohingya man, referred to as NZYQ, who had served a sentence for a serious crime but could not be deported due to statelessness. The Court ruled that indefinite detention beyond constitutional limits is illegal, emphasizing the distinction between immigration and criminal law.


ICJ: Syria Ordered to Take Measures to Prevent Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in Case Brought by the Netherlands and Canada

On 16 November 2023, the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) issued an Order in a case brought by Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands against the Syrian Arab Republic regarding the application of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Court, with a majority of thirteen votes to two, ruled that Syria must abide by its obligations under the Convention. The provisional measures include that Syria must take all possible measures within its authority to prevent acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This extends to ensuring that its officials, entities under its control, and those influenced by it do not commit such acts. Syria must also implement effective measures to prevent the destruction of evidence related to allegations of acts falling under the scope of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands brought a joint case against the Syrian Arab Republic to the International Court of Justice on 8 June 2023, alleging multiple violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, citing Syria’s actions since 2011, including the violent repression of civilian demonstrations amid the country’s descent into armed conflict. The two nations sought the Court’s jurisdiction based on relevant statutes and articles, aiming to address ongoing violations and protect individuals within Syria at risk of torture or cruel treatment. They also requested provisional measures to safeguard rights under the Convention, although the scheduled hearings were postponed due to Syria’s request. Despite oral arguments presented by Canada and the Netherlands on 10 October 2023, Syria did not participate in these proceedings.


UK: Supreme Court Rules Rwanda Asylum Policy Unlawful

On 16 November 2023, the UK’s government policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court. The Court upheld a ruling stating that the policy risks human rights breaches and cannot proceed in its current form. This ruling comes in the midst of governmental re-negotiations led by Rishi Sunak regarding a new treaty with Rwanda to revitalise the asylum plan taking into consideration changes to UK laws. The legal challenge against the policy revolves around the principle of “non-refoulement,” asserting that asylum seekers should not be returned to a place where they may face harm. The Court highlighted concerns about Rwanda’s ability to ensure safety for deported individuals. Despite the setback, the Prime Minister stressed the commitment to halting illegal immigration, citing the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment of the legality of sending migrants to a safe third country for processing. The decision creates challenges for the UK government’s immigration strategy, particularly as it wrestles with finding alternative measures to control illegal crossings. The ruling’s aftermath includes political turmoil and debates within the Conservative Party about the way forward. Various voices, including MPs and advocacy groups, have differing views on the ruling. While some MPs urge defiance of the Court’s decision, others emphasise the need to abandon the Rwanda policy, considering it cruel and ineffective. The policy’s downfall arrives amidst a decline in illegal crossings this year compared to previous ones, but opinions vary widely on the next steps necessary to address immigration challenges. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government would be presenting a full law to the parliament for setting aside the ban of the Supreme Court on returning asylum seekers to Rwanda. Sunak announced the idea of presenting the legislation in a press conference, stating that the emergency legislation would lay down Rwanda as a safe place for asylum seekers, allowing flights to begin in spring. According to Prime Minister Sunak’s spokesperson, MPs and peers have been urged to back the law as it is what voters want. A plan to enact a full treaty with Rwanda has also been announced by PM Sunak, which could be published as early as next week. 




ICJ: Several States File Declarations of Intervention in Genocide Proceedings between The Gambia and Myanmar

On 16 November 2023, in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide between The Gambia and Myanmar, several nations, including Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Maldives, filed declarations of intervention to the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”). This intervention is based on Article 63 of the ICJ Statute, granting states, which are parties to a convention in question in the proceedings, the right to intervene when the interpretation of that convention is at issue. By intervening, these States affirm their status as parties to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 9 December 1948. Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom cite their collective interest in upholding the Convention’s objectives and its interpretation. The Republic of Maldives expressed deep concern over ongoing human rights violations and assaults against Rohingya Muslims, emphasising the importance of international collaboration in preventing and punishing genocide. The judgment rendered by the Court will be binding on them as well.  


ICC: Legal Proceedings Against Vincent Otti Terminated Due to His Death

On 17 November 2023, the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) terminated proceedings against Vincent Otti, the alleged former Vice-Chairman of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This decision came on foot of the Prosecution’s request to terminate the proceedings due to evidence suggesting Otti’s death in 2007 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Pre-Trial Chamber II concluded Otti is no longer alive, and as the Court cannot have jurisdiction over a deceased individual, the case was terminated. Otti was accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Uganda. This case was initially linked with other LRA commanders’ cases, but the case against Otti has now been closed following the confirmation of his death.


ICJ: Azerbaijan Ordered to Allow for Safe Return of Ethnic Armenians to Nagorno-Karabakh

On 17 November 2023, the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) issued its Order regarding provisional measures requested by Armenia in the case entitled Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Armenia v. Azerbaijan). This Order permits ethnic Armenians who fled Nagorno-Karabakh in September to return safely, after Azerbaijan recaptured the region, leading to the exodus of most ethnic Armenians. The Court mandated Azerbaijan to ensure the safety of remaining Armenians in the enclave and to report back on their compliance in two months. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry pledged to protect all residents regardless of ethnicity and emphasised its commitment to upholding human rights. These measures are part of ongoing disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, accusing each other of violating a UN anti-racial discrimination treaty. The main case’s date is pending, and a final ruling is not expected until well into the following year.



USA: Gag Order Temporarily Paused in Trump Civil Fraud Trial

On 17 November 2023, former US President, Donald Trump, amidst his New York fraud trial, contested a gag order forbidding criticism of court personnel, leading to a pause in its enforcement. Trump sued Judge Arthur Engoron, after being barred from discussing judicial staff, asserting the order’s unconstitutionality. An appeals court temporarily lifted the gag order, enabling Trump and his legal team to publicly comment on court officials. Trump promptly resumed criticism of Judge Engoron, labelling the gag order as “radical and unprecedented.” His attorney welcomed the ruling, emphasising Trump’s right to address bias in his trial. The trial, initiated by NY Attorney General Letitia James, accuses Trump, his sons, and the Trump Organisation of business fraud, potentially resulting in substantial fines and the dissolution of their NY real estate empire. The trial’s early stages saw Judge Engoron imposing fines on Trump for breaching the gag order. A crucial moment occurred when Trump was unexpectedly summoned to testify, linked to comments perceived to target the judge’s clerk. Trump’s legal team repeatedly accused the clerk of bias, citing actions like passing notes or displaying facial expressions during proceedings. In another case concerning alleged attempts to subvert the 2020 election results, Trump’s gag order in a Washington DC criminal case was also temporarily lifted. These legal battles highlight the ongoing confrontations Trump faces, asserting his right to speak out against perceived bias while navigating various court proceedings.


ICC: Receipt of a Referral from Five States Parties Concerning the Situation in the State of Palestine

On 17 November 2023, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) received a referral of the Situation in the State of Palestine, from the following five States Parties: South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Comoros, and Djibouti. In accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a State Party may refer to the Prosecutor a situation in which one or more crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court appear to have been committed requesting the Prosecutor to investigate the situation for the purpose of determining whether one or more specific persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor confirmed that it is presently conducting an investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine. This investigation, commenced on 3 March 2021, encompasses conduct that may amount to Rome Statute crimes committed since 13 June 2014 in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It is ongoing and extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on 7 October 2023.



Palestine: Gaza’s Two Biggest Hospitals Cease Operations 

On 13 November 2023, Al Jazeera reported that Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, the two largest hospitals in Gaza, have stopped accepting new patients due to Israeli bombardment, critical shortages of medicine and fuel due to the Israeli siege, and an escalating number of those killed by Israeli forces, among them patients and medical staff. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urgently called for a ceasefire to prevent further casualties as the hospitals are struggling with no electricity, water, and safe exit routes, creating a dire situation. Reports from medical staff indicate that Israeli forces have surrounded medical facilities in northern Gaza, including Al-Shifa Hospital, which Israel claims is situated above a Hamas command center. However, Hamas and hospital officials deny this allegation. There have been reports of Israeli forces targeting the hospital complex with munitions and snipers, endangering patients and staff. The WHO reports that hundreds of patients, health workers, and internally displaced individuals are trapped in the hospital with no safe means of escape, a lack of essential supplies, and multiple deaths, including infants, due to power outages and damaged infrastructure. Staff from inside the hospitals reported that premature babies have begun to die as oxygen is cut due to no fuel. The healthcare system in Gaza is severely strained, with more than half of the hospitals inoperable due to Israeli actions. The Israeli offensive has killed over 11 200 Palestinians (as of 13 November 2023), but the precise toll is difficult to update due to disrupted hospital services and communication.


Afghanistan: Mass Deportation of Afghans from Pakistan Poses Security Threat

On 13 November 2023, the International Crisis Group stated that Pakistan’s move to repatriate potentially millions of Afghan refugees has significant regional implications. Aimed at mass deportations, this policy targets Afghans, including both documented and undocumented individuals who have sought refuge in Pakistan and despite Islamabad’s claims of security concerns, the action has raised human rights concerns. This forceful expulsion includes registered refugees, those with partial protection, and undocumented individuals, pushing many across the border under intense duress. The plan unfolds in phases, targeting different groups, and has led to reports of harassment, arrests, and confiscations among the Afghan community. The backdrop to this harsh policy lies in Pakistan’s rising tensions with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which Islamabad attributes to Afghan nationals. Seeking to mitigate the TTP’s influence, Pakistan accuses the Taliban in Kabul of sheltering TTP militants. As a result, this mass repatriation, accelerated by a significant TTP attack, is poised to compound Afghanistan’s existing humanitarian crisis. The Taliban in Afghanistan has struggled to accommodate the returning refugees, urging Pakistan to ensure a more orderly repatriation process. The sudden influx of returnees, combined with Afghanistan’s ongoing crises, poses severe challenges. The overwhelmed Afghan authorities are working to accommodate the returnees in temporary camps while facing limitations in international aid. The mass deportations are likely to exacerbate humanitarian challenges and security risks, potentially increasing migration from Afghanistan. The International Crisis Group reiterated that the crisis needs urgent international intervention to uphold humanitarian standards, mitigate potential security threats, and support the vulnerable Afghan returnees. Resettlement programs, diplomatic pressure, and a cooperative approach between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and international agencies are crucial to navigate this impending crisis.


Nigeria: Impending Food Crisis to Put 26.5 Million into Food Insecurity

On 13 November 2023, UN organisations warned that Nigeria faces an impending food crisis, with around 26.5 million individuals projected to experience high food insecurity in 2024, an increase from the current 18.6 million facing vulnerability. Of these, approximately nine million children are at risk of acute malnutrition, and 2.6 million could suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition, requiring urgent nutritional intervention. The situation is compounded by ongoing conflicts, climate change effects, inflation, and soaring costs of essential goods. Violence in several regions impedes access to food, exacerbating economic hardship. The Cadre Harmonisé’s biannual analysis revealed this concerning trend and emphasised the need for immediate action. UN agencies, including the FAO and UNICEF, stress the critical need for support, calling for resilience-building in agrifood systems and underscoring the moral obligation to address the hunger crisis, especially among children. The international community urges the Nigerian government and donors to allocate resources to prevent a catastrophic food and nutrition disaster.


UNICEF: Children in South East Asia Facing Severe Water Scarcity due to Climate Change

On 13 November 2023, The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) highlighted South Asia as the region with the highest number of children facing severe water scarcity due to climate change effects. Approximately 347 million children in the eight-nation area, constituting a quarter of the world’s child population, are exposed to high or extremely high water scarcity. Climate change’s impact on weather patterns and rainfall disrupts water availability. The report emphasised issues like poor water quality, water mismanagement, and diminishing water reserves due to climate change. UNICEF underlined the adverse effects on homes, schools, and health centers when village wells dry up, stressing the worsening scenario for children due to unpredictable climate changes. UNICEF stated they will urge leaders at the upcoming COP28 conference to secure a sustainable planet. Despite ongoing water challenges, UNICEF noted rapid improvements in basic drinking water services and aimed to halve the number of children lacking access by 2030.


Myanmar: 19 South Korean Citizens Rescued

As reported on 14 November 2023, 19 South Koreans have been rescued in Myanmar after being held captive at an illegal company in Tachileik, Shan state, near the Thai border. The rescue followed a report received by Seoul’s foreign ministry about its nationals being confined. Myanmar police raided the company in late October 2023 and safely transferred the South Korean citizens to Yangon on 13 November. The ministry did not provide details about the company’s operations or the group’s identity but emphasised collaboration with Myanmar officials to assist its citizens and prevent crimes. South Korean broadcaster KBS reported that the individuals were enticed by the company’s promise of high profits. Myanmar’s junta has not responded to requests for comment.


IOM: 64 Migrants Feared Dead as Vessel Capsizes Off Yemen Coast

On 15 November 2023, the International Organization on Migration (IOM) reported that more than 64 people were feared missing and dead after a vessel capsized off the coast of Yemen on 12 November. At the same time, 26 survivors were rescued by the Yemeni Coast Guard. According to the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) of IOM in Yemen, the incident occurred between Al-Hajjajah and Ghareerah in the Bab-Al-Mandeb Strait. The vessel was en route to Yemen from the coast of Djibouti and was carrying 90 migrants. Acting Chief of Mission of IOM in Yemen, Matt Huber, highlighted that the incident called for global cooperation to establish safer migration pathways. According to IOM’s DTM, from January to October 2023, 93,000 migrant arrivals in Yemen were recorded.


France: Asylum Seekers Waiting to Cross to the UK Living in Unsanitary Conditions

On 17 November 2023, the Guardian reported that twelve organisations working with asylum seekers in northern France warned the French government of the “catastrophic situation” of the asylum seekers. They highlighted that the asylum seekers were surviving in unsanitary conditions as they were waiting for a change in weather to cross the Channel to the United Kingdom. Since 8 November, the crossing has been made only on two days, i.e. 12 and 16 November, because of bad weather conditions, with 1000 people crossing in 19 boats. According to Axel Gaudinat of Utopia 56, living conditions are so bad that asylum seekers, 2000 in Calais and 1000 in Dunkirk, were at risk of death. He also highlighted that conditions were so dire that some asylum seekers could die in France before making the journey across the Channel. Local government officials in previous winters have provided emergency shelters for families and lone children. In winter, shelters are unavailable for everyone, with many being forced to sleep in freezing and unsanitary conditions.


WFP: As Population Reaches the Verge of Starvation, Only 10% of Food Supplies Being Received in Gaza 

On 17 November 2023, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that a “massive” food gap was being faced in the Gaza Strip due to the conflict, and the entire population of the Palestinian enclave was in “desperate” need of food assistance. Cindy McCain, WFP executive director, highlighted that the water supply and food were “practically non-existent” while civilians were on the verge of starvation in the region. Furthermore, the delivery of humanitarian aid had been shut down again because of fuel shortages and communication outages. According to Abeer Etfea, a Middle East regional spokesperson for WFP, only 10 % of its required food aid was being received by Gaza and dehydration and malnutrition are rampantly increasing among the population. 



Myanmar: Intensifying Conflict Between Junta and Rebels Displaces 200 000 More

On 17 November 2023, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) highlighted that in the fighting that erupted, 70 civilians and combatants had been killed, while  90 had been wounded. According to the UN agency, the conflict between ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar military has expanded further to the country’s eastern and western regions. Since the start of the conflict on 27 October, 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The conflict emerged in Shan State near the border with China under the Thre Brotherhood Alliance, which is a group of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), T’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA). The offensive, code-named Operation 1027, aims to put an end to the “oppressive military dictatorship”, with fighting having spread to Rakhine and Chin states bordering Bangladesh and India. The military regime in Myanmar has also admitted that it is facing heavy assaults” by anti-coup forces, as the latter were making use of “hundreds” of drones to drop bombs on military posts. Jeremey Laurence, Spokesperson for the OHCHR, highlighted that the agency was monitoring the situation in Myanmar after reports of several hundred soldiers having laid down their weapons were received. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143702 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/16/myanmar-military-admits-facing-heavy-assaults-from-anti-coup-forces

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